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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Library

Zoran Živković

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To purchase The Library

Title: The Library
Author: Zoran Živković
Genre: Novel
Written: 2002 (Eng. 2002)
Length: 108 pages
Original in: Serbian
Availability: The Library - US
The Library - UK
The Library - Canada
The Library - India
in Der unmögliche Roman - Deutschland
Sei biblioteche - Italia
  • Serbian title: Библиотека / Biblioteka
  • Translated by Alice Copple-Tošić

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Our Assessment:

B+ : nice little series of variations on a theme

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       The Library is, in fact, six libraries, each of the six pieces in the collection a story about a different (often very different ...) kind of library -- the final one, 'Noble Library', nicely tying together the book as a concluding piece that cleverly ... digests the rest.
       Živković's variations on his theme tend towards the fantastical. His first-person narrators are almost all book-enthusiasts in one form or another -- eager, interested readers and writers -- but not entirely of the single-minded sort. Each, however, finds himself in circumstances that are, in one way or another, extreme -- often an opportunity to lose themselves entirely in an infinity of (literary) potential.
       Most of the stories are variations on the same idea, the infinite, all-encompassing library. Impressively, Živković manages to come up not only with a variety of forms in which such libraries manifest themselves -- including online, in 'Virtual Library'; in a single volume, in 'Smallest Library' -- but also spins sufficiently different stories around them.
       Endless potential is not always welcome ('Infernal Library') or fully realized: it is the libraries that are so comprehensive as to include even the most personal information, the infinite one of 'Virtual Library' and the archive of: "The lives of all the people who ever lived" in 'Night Library' that also prove elusive -- glimpsed but lost, the doors and access to them only briefly open. Meanwhile, 'Smallest Library' nicely combines the ideas of a library as a bottomless well and of literary impermanence (and comes with perhaps the most satisfying utilization of the library in the whole lot). The most amusing variation comes in 'Noble Library', which finds a carefully curated collection sullied by a single book that just won't go away -- "one that defied me with its insolence".
       Živković nicely captures the overwhelming allure of books and book-collecting, and book-hoarding -- perhaps best in 'Home Library', where the narrator lives in a small apartment and has always -- until now ... -- managed to avoid keeping a home library, aware that:

(B)ooks devour space. You can't reverse this law. However much space you give them, it's never enough. First they occupy the walls. Then they continue to spread wherever they can gain a foothold. Only ceilings are spared the invasion. New books keep arriving, and you can't bear to get rid of a single old one. And so, slowly and imperceptibly, the volumes crowd out everything before them. Like glaciers.
       'Infernal Library' is a bit of an odd man out -- as is its narrator, the only one in the sextet who isn't devoted, in one or many ways, to books (as are all the others). The idea here is a clever one, too -- "Every age has its own hell. Today it's a library" -- but it is a bit of an odd fit among the others.
       The Library is an enjoyable little collection. Živković is clever and creative in his invention, and he tells the stories well. With a final piece that puts a bow on the collection and ties it all together he also makes a more satisfying whole out of it; it's all very nicely done.
       Easily recommended, especially to book-lovers (and hoarders).

- M.A.Orthofer, 17 November 2015

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The Library: Zoran Živković: Other books by Zoran Zivkovic under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Zoran Živković was born in Belgrade in 1948.

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